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Regional Rail Planning

Overview of Regional Rail Planning

A regional rail plan serves several purposes: First, it identifies and describes a common, long-term vision for regional passenger rail service and the required infrastructure network based on existing conditions, projections of future travel demand, and the optimal role for rail service in a multi-modal transportation context.  An integrated vision for a regional rail network illustrates how links with local transit, aviation, highway, and non-motorized modes can create a seamless, integrated transportation system to carry travelers from origin to destination throughout the region in the most cost-effective manner.  Secondly, it identifies the potential institutional arrangements, financial requirements, and planning and development activities needed to achieve the vision.  For more information on Regional Rail Planning and other rail planning topics, view the FRA Rail Program Delivery Video Series

Southwest Multi-State Rail Planning Study

The Southwest Multi-State Rail Planning Study (SW Study) was the first regional rail planning study led by the FRA.  The SW Study was a great case study that informed FRA’s subsequent activities as well as the overall national rail planning effort.  Representatives from key transportation organizations across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah worked through the challenges of developing multi-state rail plans and outlined a common preliminary technical vision for high-performance rail (HPR) in the Southwest as part of this Study. The Study demonstrated an analytical framework for developing early-stage HPR network planning concepts and examining the institutional context for establishing and implementing a long-range rail vision.  

NEC Future

NEC Future logo

NEC FUTURE is FRA’s comprehensive plan for improving the Northeast Corridor (NEC) from Washington, D.C., to Boston, MA. FRA collaborated with the NEC states, railroads, stakeholders, and the public to define a long-term vision for the corridor's future. In July 2017, FRA issued the Record of Decision, which marked the completion of the Tier 1 environmental review process and contained a description of the Selected Alternative, a vision for the growth of the NEC to guide future investments on the Corridor. 

Following the publication of the NEC FUTURE Record of Decision, the NEC Commission launched CONNECT NEC 2035 to provide a roadmap to implement the initial 15-year phase of NEC FUTURE vision. While CONNECT NEC 2035 will include capacity improvements, trip time reductions, and other enhancements to the NEC, CONNECT NEC 2035 will focus on ensuring safe and reliable commuter, intercity, and freight rail services through state-of-good-repair projects. The target completion date for the CONNECT NEC 2035 plan is Fall 2021.

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Southeast Regional Rail Planning Study

The Southeast Regional Rail Planning Study kicked off in Summer 2016 to explore the potential for a high-performance, multi-state, intercity passenger rail network in the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, plus the District of Columbia. During the study, the states were awarded funding to establish a rail governance body, resulting in the establishment of the Southeast Corridor Commission (SEC) in 2020. The SEC adopted the Southeast Regional Rail Planning Study as the framework to guide their work developing the southeast rail network. The Southeast Regional Rail Plan was completed in early 2021 and adopted by the SEC. Implementation of the Southeast Regional Rail Plan would provide access to high-performance rail services for more than 70% of residents in the Southeastern United States, a significant increase from the 55% of Southeast residents with access to long distance rail service today.   

Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study

Starting in the spring of 2017, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) embarked on a project to explore the potential for a high-performance, multistate, intercity passenger rail network in the Midwest region. The study built on current rail planning efforts within the 12 states of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Indiana, and Minnesota, and is intended to support both state rail planning efforts and the coordinated planning and implementation of new and improved passenger rail services within the region. On October 13, 2021, the final report for the study was released jointly by FRA and the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC), an interstate rail compact formed to promote, coordinate, and support regional improvements to passenger rail service. Additional planning efforts from regional stakeholders will further expand this 40-year framework for the Midwest passenger rail network to include prioritization of corridors and investment projects, an enhanced governance structure, and a focused funding strategy.